Every City has a FOOD column in their local newspaper. In the Twin Cities we actually have several options, but the reality is anyone who is not a savage just reads the StarTribune "TASTE" section every Thursday morning.
I think the reason the "TASTE" section has pulled ahead of the numerous hack publications is because it doesn't curtail to fads, instead it does what a good food pub needs to...it remains current with the times, while being steeped in tradition.
Rick Nelson does the restaurant reviews, and most of the locals in the Food Show love him. Each week he selects a different location and finds reasons why we should make the place a destination spot.
Or if he gets a sense that the place is weak, Rick often times will shout a few of the things that are being done correctly. Now if you have ever worked in the public eye, you know that everybody has their own opinion, and typically the ones shared are not flattering.
I've always felt that any buffoon can walk into a joint, put their head on a swivel and proceed to throw darts. My issue with that is its a waste of time. People are not stupid, if your concept sucks....they'll throw it to the wayside.
On a few occasions I've heard some of the "Hipsters" diss on Nelson because he's never an A-hole. Twin Cities Hipsters always like to pull statements out of the air like "In NYC if a concept doesn't meet specific standards, a good food critic can have that dump shut down."
Other times you'll hear these people whine in their shrill voices that if we are ever going to compete on the same level as our big brother Chicago, we're going to have to get tougher, acquire a little more grit.
NEWSFLASH!!!! The Twin Cities will never be a heavy hitter, we won't pee in the tall grass with San Fransisco or New York. Minneapolis and Saint Paul are either the biggest small towns in the nations culinary world, or maybe the smallest big town, I dunno you can choose, but the fact is we are never going to become confused with Paris....just saying.
If fine dining is your Mendoza line, just look at the James Beard Awards. Each year the top prizes go to the coastal concepts, and sure....every once in awhile somebody from the 651 or 612 will snatch an obligatory prize,but remember....even the Academy eventually gave Randy Newman an Oscar for song of the year after going 0 for 18.
But seriously, do you wanna be the woman or man who gets that pity award?
With that said, that's why I respect the "TASTE" section and Rick, they know who their demographic is. We are a city of nice rubes and there is no shame to that.
Nobody understands this better than the "TASTE" sections Editor Lee Svitak Dean. In fact, I have probably formed many of my opinions, about not only the Twin Cities dining scene,but people in general from how she lays out her weekly section.
It's my belief that Lee does something that a lot of one trick pony's forget now days. She writes for her audience, not her ego. How novel is that?
The balance is so very delicate, and you won't see the maximum value of her skill set unless you follow her baby each Thursday morning when the paper hits your doorstep.Reporting a life style or a vibe is a marathon, not a sprint.
One week she will tell the tale of an unusual occurrence in our midst, but the following week she might tell you a story about a local family, and she'll masterfully pull a thread through them and a relevant culinary topic that will make much more sense to her readership than angry rantings like her competitors do.
I recall one article she wrote,and I cherish it. The piece was about Christmas at her house when she was a child. She took us on a tour of her family's holiday feast,sharing their traditions and aspirations. I really don't think you can paint a more intimate landscape than that.
Now if an editor from the Boston Globe's Food section wrote something about Christmas, you know half their comments would be filled with cynicism,or you'd have to hear stories about the one bad uncle, or the sister who said she wasn't going to attend, but when Papa went to take out the garbage, we'd find the homeless daughter scrounging in the trash for leftovers.? but you'll never find these over played dramas being penned by Lee Svitak Dean, why? Maybe its because she is a reflection of the type of person most of us want to be in Minnesota, maybe its because she is NICE.
OK, now that you have just read the worlds longest intro, let me tell you about a story that took place a little while back. Lee Svitak Dean has a son and his name is Eric.
How do I say this without sounding conceited? I like Eric a lot, because he reminds me of me. And even though I get sick of myself each day by 5 p.m., if it's before noon, I can't think a better way to pass time than hanging out with my clone.
With that said, I should reiterate that he is close to my sons age so when I say we are a like, it might be more accurate to say that he is a younger version of me.
Every time Eric and I had discussions, everything was said in a Hip-Hop vernacular. The first way to impress me is to be confident and welded to street slang.
So at one point when young Mr. Dean was checking out places for jobs, we decided that he should swing by here, if he didn't like the place, it still never hurts to interview...right?
So we played phone tag, back and forth - back and forth.
Now it's 9 a.m. on a Tuesday morning, and I see him out in our business office. I was really glad to get this meeting in because both of us were running wicked-busy schedules.
So I flag the kid into my office where I like to do the stand up and shake hand thing. One thing that impressed me about Eric is that although the kid is clever, although the kid has mad-street smarts, he didn't give me one of those thug hand shakes, you know....sometimes the kids will try to drop that hippie hand shake, or the modern kids do the pull close - shoulder smash deal.
Nope, not this kid. Eric just gave me a crisp-firm hand shake that would make a Baptist preacher proud.
So as we sat down, and I mean the very second my a** hit the chair, my cell phone went off. Usually I don't pick up during meetings, but the prefix indicted long distance so I momentarily excused myself.
"Hello this is ADT security, somebody is in your house. do you want us to call the police?"
All my years of being a Production Manager have really helped me multi task. In about a seconds time, I slowed the entire world down.
My first thought was, whoever is in my house is going to get a Polish A** kicking like they have never had, but then i looked at Eric, he was sitting there, acting all cool, being excited to do this interview, and I wasn't sure how hard it would be to hook up again. so this vortex of thought in my mind closed up immediately, and I answered back to the ADT guy.
"Call them, I am on my way."
So now I told Eric that were going on the road, and to hurry up and run. He started laughing, but I could tell he was a little more than intrigued by this odd demand.
Typically it takes me 15-18 minutes to get home, but I think on this day we reached it in 8-10. I swear it would have made a great movie scene, if it was printed in Hollywood, you simply wouldn't have believed it. maybe it was more of an IFC thing.
Yeah, I tell Eric to buckle up because my house was being robbed. i drove up 35E like Popeye Doyle in the French Connection, and as this whole thing was unfolding...Johnny Cash was playing in my bread trucks CD player, the cut was a cover of "Your Own Personal Jesus."
And as the 2 of us swerved around like a cork in a jacuzzi, Eric was so chill, he was basically just talking about bass lines LOL. How can you not love that about a kid.
In all my years of interviewing, I never took an applicant to a robbery, but I liked Eric, I trusted his sensibilities.
So now we pull into my alley and as I was taking off my seat belt Eric jumps out of the truck looking to see which house was mine. I actually had to stop to laugh.
"Whoa Tonto" I declared "If anybody is going to get shot, that person better be me, if I put you in front of a pistol, I get the feeling your mother would destroy me."
I'm guessing that we envisioned this in unison because we both started laughing.
The robbers left without robbing, but they knocked TV's on the ground and pissed off my dogs. I was only in the house for 90 seconds before turning around and seeing Eric heading in anyways.
I like courage, even if it is stupid...LOL
Several minutes later Johnny Law showed up, and imagine this....they had a strong suspicion that me and home boy were the thieves, but after producing identification the whole matter was cleaned up.
My boy Eric has gone on to bigger and better things in his life, but life is made up of moments isn't it. When Lee Svitak Dean reflects about what is important to her, the scenario usually involves precious moments spent with her family.
With me on the other hand, on the day that Klecko is about to shed his mortal coil, and his life flashes before his eyes, you can be certain that one of his highlights will have been chirping about Johnny Cash bass lines with Eric while the Hartford Avenue estate was being plundered.